Grounded Kiwis' court hearing delayed on same day room release suspended

Hazel Osborne, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jan 2022, 2:02pm

Grounded Kiwis' court hearing delayed on same day room release suspended

Hazel Osborne, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jan 2022, 2:02pm

Grounded Kiwis say they feel abandoned by the system they're fighting to change after their day in court was pushed back. 

Set to be heard next week, the hearing has been adjourned until February 14 and 15 after an urgent teleconference at the High Court in Wellington earlier this week. 

The group claims the Government has acted unlawfully, unreasonably, and in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 that states every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand. 

The news of the delay came on the same day the Government suddenly announced on Twitter that the upcoming MIQ room release wouldn't be going ahead. 

It said due to unprecedented numbers of Omicron cases coming into the country, the next room release, scheduled for January 20, had been postponed. 

With MIQ bookings shut for the foreseeable future, New Zealand citizens both home and abroad have hit out at the news, including Grounded Kiwis member Tim Vaughan. 

It took Vaughan months to be reunited with his wife Kate and three sons Dane, Max and Jesse. His plight to return home from Singapore only bore fruit after his fifth attempt at the MIQ lottery. 

Vaughan says others haven't been so lucky and the adjournment is another hurdle for those looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. 

"It's incredibly disappointing to see the hearing has been delayed, when there is so much human misery as a result," Vaughan said. 

"Unfortunately, the delayed hearing appears to be another case of the government putting their head in the sand and ignoring the problem altogether, all in the name of maintaining good PR." 

In an official statement sent to the Herald, Grounded Kiwis said the Crown had made an application to adjourn the hearing based on the argument it needed more time to respond to new matters raised. 

The Grounded Kiwis legal team had opposed the adjournment and said there was fair notice of the case as the matters were not new to the parties and asked the review remain urgent as New Zealanders are still unable to return home. 

Justice Jillian Mallon stated in her minutes that even though many New Zealanders have been able to secure vouchers and return home, there are many who have not. 

"The declarations they seek, if successful, will likely be relevant for some time to come while the pandemic takes its course." 

Grounded Kiwis spokesperson Alexandra Birt said that although the delay was disappointing, the group respected the ruling of the judge and were eagerly awaiting the February dates. 

The judicial review was filed in October last year. Since then, the group has raised just over $190,000 through crowdfunding to aid with the costs involved in taking a case like this before the High Court. 

The Grounded Kiwis group was formed in late July last year to give support and advocacy to those New Zealanders affected by the current MIQ system. 

Birt told the Herald 27 affidavits had been submitted to the courts, some so heartbreaking that a break was required between reading. 

"This is me just reading their experience and not living it," Birt said. 

This group of 27 represents a fraction of people impacted by the system, she said, and all have stories just as compelling. 

Announcing the closure of MIQ slots due to the rise in Omicron cases via tweet was difficult to process for those still abroad. 

Birt said members were absolutely devastated with the news and many had reached out with concerns for their mental health. 

"We are trying to support as best we can and refer them to services in their locations... it's been a very difficult time for a lot of people."